Report: SpaceX Asked the Pentagon to Take Over Funding for Starlink Terminals in Ukraine

Elon Musk made controversial comments about the war earlier this month

Elon Musk
SpaceX founder Elon Musk during a T-Mobile and SpaceX joint event on August 25, 2022 in Boca Chica Beach, Texas.
Michael Gonzalez/Getty Images

UPDATE: After this article was originally published, Elon Musk posted what looks like a confirmation that SpaceX will continue to fund Starlink terminals in Ukraine. Although, as CNBC’s report on the post noted, it’s not clear whether Musk was providing official confirmation of a change in SpaceX policy or just being sarcastic.

“The hell with it … even though Starlink is still losing money & other companies are getting billions of taxpayer $, we’ll just keep funding Ukraine govt for free,” Musk wrote on his Twitter account.

Not long after Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine, SpaceX distributed a sizable number of its Starlink satellite internet terminals to the affected country. At the time, it seemed like an unambiguously good thing — an instance of the Elon Musk-owned company doing an admirable thing and using its technology to provide an essential service during a time when Ukraine’s infrastructure was under attack.

In the months since then, however, Musk’s take on the conflict has shifted into support for what journalist Olivier Knox, writing in The Washington Post, described as a resolution that “seems designed to lock in Russian territorial gains.”

This begs the question: would this have any effect on Starlink’s service in Ukraine? Based on a new report from CNN, the answer is a resounding yes. The article cites a letter from SpaceX to the Pentagon, asking that the Pentagon take over the costs of funding the terminals. The language is pretty unambiguous: “We are not in a position to further donate terminals to Ukraine, or fund the existing terminals for an indefinite period of time.”

Musk took to Twitter to discuss the costs related to the Starlink terminals in Ukraine.

If you’re getting a slight sense of dissonance from Musk arguing about the costs of this at the same time as he readies a plan to buy Twitter, you’re not alone. Though this wouldn’t be the first time that Musk initially provided support to something garnering international attention, only to see it curdle into something much more unnerving.

Here, the stakes seem especially high — and a blinking contest between SpaceX and the Pentagon could have dire consequences for the people of Ukraine.

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